For decades, Bill Cosby and his legal team have successfully deflected sexual assault allegations by writing them off as nothing more than “unsubstantiated, fantastical stories.” After Monday’s unsealing of court documents from a 2005 lawsuit, exposing Mr. Cosby’s admission to purchasing Quaaludes for women with whom he wanted to have sexual intercourse, the actor-comedian will be forced to change his tune.
Since the release of this information earlier this week, both BET’s Centric Network and Bounce TV have decided to discontinue broadcasting reruns of Mr. Cosby’s television shows (TV Land pulled their reruns several months earlier), and Disney World announced that the park will remove their bronze statue of Mr. Cosby.
In spite of all of the allegations waged against him—there have been over two dozen in the last year alone—Mr. Cosby has still never been charged with a crime. How is this possible, in the face of such an overwhelming number of alleged victims?
For the vast majority of Mr. Cosby’s alleged victims, it is simply too late for them to take legal action. Most of Mr. Cosby’s accusers remained silent for years about their alleged assaults, and the statue of limitations on their cases has long passed.
According to former Montgomery County, PA District Attorney Bruce Castor, regarding the 2005 lawsuit launched by alleged victim Andrea Constand, there was simply not enough evidence to proceed with a criminal case.
“Under Pennsylvania law, the statements of a suspect are not admissible until… you can independently prove that a crime was committed,” explained Castor, meaning that even Mr. Cosby’s admission to purchasing Quaaludes for the women he targeted would not have been strong enough evidence to charge him with sexual assault.
However, where Andrea Constand and other accusers have achieved victories against Mr. Cosby is in civil court. Unlike in criminal lawsuits that require proof beyond reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt, civil cases require a much lower burden of proof. While civil lawsuits won’t land Mr. Cosby behind bars, they can punish him financially and continue to tarnish his public image.
Andrea’s lawyers are now arguing to have all of the court documents from her civil trial released to the public, which include the testimony of thirteen other unidentified women and, they believe, will reveal even more damning information about Mr. Cosby.
While many alleged victims, like Joan Tarshis and Barbara Bowman, have expressed their feelings of vindication following Mr. Cosby’s admission, many of these women may take additional solace in the fact that one of Mr. Cosby’s sexual assault cases still lies within the statute of limitations for both a civil and criminal lawsuit, so there is still a chance he will serve jail time for his actions.
The Los Angeles Police Department announced on Wednesday that they presently have an open criminal investigation of Mr. Cosby.
Sources: Bowley, Graham and Sydney Ember, “Cosby Legal and Publicity Teams Opt for Silence After Admission Is Released,” The New York Times, 8 July 2015.
CNN Wire, “Criminal charges still possible against Bill Cosby,” Fox 8, 9 July 2015.
Rogers, Katie, “Bill Cosby: The Latest from His Accusers and Defenders,” The New York Times, 8 July 2015.